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By Ahmed Abdi
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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More than 2 million human bengs have no access to basic humanitarian aid, food, medical care and clean water. United Nations have recently reported that that more than 1.8 million of Ogaden’s worst affected population was “effectively out of bounds of aid agencies” this news came as  other agencies reported that nutritional studies revealed over 70% of the population is experiencing food insecurity.

Humanitarian access on the Ogaden region is at its lowest point since the current regime in Addis Ababa came to power in 1991. With MSF and ICRC gone, withdrawals of major humanitarian organizations continue, with a steady erosion of relief capacity. In turn, there are fewer, if any, international witnesses to the ethnic crimes that define the conflict in Ogaden. Addis Ababa’s crackdown on international journalists traveling to the region has also dramatically reduced the means of chronicling the accelerating atrocities.

Ogaden RegionThis is the context in which to understand Prime Minister Zenawi’s insistence that Addis Ababa can handle its own internal conflict without international “interference”. It is political and moral failure of the first order that this mendacity should be the obstacle to deployment of Unites Nations peace keeping forces to the Ogaden region , these forces are badly needed to protect the collapsing humanitarian operations and most importantly the vulnerable population. 

Acquiescence to Zenawi’s defiance makes a mockery of the world’s “responsibility to protect” civilians in places such as Ogaden. All of these are happening against a backdrop of rapidly rising malnutrition rates, specially among children age five; an outbreak of cholera war recently reported in some parts within Ogaden; continuing large scale civilian displacement; and intolerable conditions amidst many of the villages for displaces persons. Many more villages were burnt in the middle of the year.

As part of a ghastly counter-insurgency war against the ONLF rebels, the Zenawi regime has systematically attacked the villages throughout Ogaden region, engaging in the deliberately comprehensive destruction of livelihoods of those assaulted. Food-and seed-stocks have been burned; agricultural implements and water vessels destroyed; water wells poisoned with human and animal corpses.

It was a grim irony during Kofi Annan’s tenure the UN world summit of 2005 enshrined, in an “outcome document” the “responsibility to protect” as did security council resolution 1674 (April 2006) while Annan  often invoked such “responsibility” it never really moved beyond such exhortation.

For there is no meaningful security in Ogaden, a diffident international community has refused to move toward deploying a UN peacekeeping force in Ogaden. Because of absent robust and urgent international humanitarian intervention in the Ogaden region, there is every reason to believe that we have entered the most destructive phase of genocidal destruction in Ogaden. Thousands of people have already died; as many more could die in the coming months on the watch of world community.

 The world’s choice is to look at Ogaden through the lens of Darfur or Rwanda.

The expedient consensus is clearly to do the former; but Ogaden’s realities are shamefully closer to those of the latter.

Ahmed Abdi
E-mail: [email protected]

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